Cosmetics isn’t something one typically finds on the list of innovative products or services as it pertains to startups. These days the next and biggest thing is an app, a piece of tech or a new kind of service. Julep though, is a notable exception. Although not technically a startup in the “we just launched our business” sense, the small cosmetics firm has recently broken into the ecommerce market. To quite a bit of fanfare, I must add.
Julep began as a small nail parlor, nestled in the city of Seattle, in 2007. A private venture of Jane Park, a former Starbucks and BCG CEO, and, Kate Macdonald, a former consultant for Point B Solutions Group. Since then, the parlor has grown to an entire online brand boasting over 200 employees. Their most in demand products are now found not only online but in major chains such as Norstroms, Sephora and even many small, independent beauty shops.
The company has thus far raised an astounding $56 million to date, from a combination of venture capital firms and independent investors. Some of these independents hail from Hollywood, with big name such as Jay-Z and Will and Jada Smith.
Their reported growth has been more than triple in the past three years, with an amazing quintuple growth in the year 2012 alone. Certainly a long leap from a small nail parlor.
So what sets Julep apart from major brands?
Well, for one, they empower women and donate to some of the best causes. A portion of every purchase goes to incredible charities such as the Malala Fund, the United Nations Girls Education Fund (Girl Up), and, more locally, the Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network. Julep also releases product on a consistent basis, with new products being brought to market monthly. The company goal is to bring over 300 products to bear each year, and they’ve managed to do it through leveraging crowdsourced feedback from social media. In essence, this makes the customer a partner in the creation of new products.
Julep also emphasizes a social aspect, using word of mouth to fuel their growth. Their motto is “Powered by Girlfriends.” They go on to say that they wouldn’t want to use anything they wouldn’t recommend to a friend or family member and keep a focus on non-toxic ingredients. A tough thing in the cosmetics market, even in the modern age.
With all of this in mind it isn’t hard to see why Julep earned the Cosmetic Executive Women’s Indie Beauty Brand award in 2013. The company earned a spot as a finalist in the same convention for the Insider’s Choice award the following year.
Promise, poise and empowerment are solid foundations any strong company would love to build from. With Julep’s emphasis on networking, empowering women and a no nonsense approach to content, it would be hard to argue that Jane and Kate don’t have such foundations beneath them. The cosmetics and beauty industry could use a refreshing take. I think Julep is just the one to give it.